Environmental hazards in the workplace can range from something as simple as cleaning products not stored properly to the improper handling of bodily fluids. An environmental hazard is any hazard that presents a danger to a surrounding environment. These dangers come in many forms and are not often noticed until an accident occurs. Understanding the various environmental hazards and taking precautions can help prevent accidents.
Air quality can have serious health issues on workers. Always ensure there is ample ventilation, especially in work environments that make use of chemicals or produce heavy smoke. Don't overlook offices that are in close proximity to factories that may produce some of these air toxins.
Trip, Fall Hazards
A 2010 Occupational Safety and Health Administration report states that there were an estimated "3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work" due to slipping, tripping and falling in the workplace. Keep frequent checks on cords for machinery and office equipment, not only to ensure they are properly tucked away to prevent tripping, but to ensure there are no frayed or exposed wires that can cause fires. Any office machinery in this condition should be repaired or replaced. OSHA requires offices to fix any hazardous, potentially dangerous situations. This can include broken or missing hand rails, loose floor tiles, wet walkways, and wires not tucked away safely. The Code of Federal Regulations requires aisles to be free of anything that can cause slipping or falling.
In workplace situations where bodily fluids are handled, OSHA has a mandatory set of safe handling guidelines, which include disposing of bodily fluids and any materials that contact bodily fluids, such as gloves and needles, in red containers marked with a biohazard and medical waste label.
Don't overlook any cleaning done in the workplace. Always store cleaning chemicals properly, in a cool dry environment. Keep desks and telephones wiped down to help prevent the spread of germs. Always wear gloves when you clean, but keep in mind, while your hands are protected, the objects you handle with the gloves aren't protected. This means that even picking up a bottle of cleaner that's been handled can spread contamination. The gloves should go on before handling any cleaning supplies and should only come off after you've finished the job.
Establishing a health and safety group and conducting monthly environmental safety meetings and safety checks is one way your company can help keep workplace safety concerns to a minimum. While this may take away from productive work time, the decrease in accidents and health issues may pay off over the long run.
Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.